Christmas Eve

Carols at 4:00pm
First Eucharist of Christmas at 4:30pm

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Welcome to St. Matthew’s Episcopal where we have gathered to celebrate the joyful “Good News” of God in Christ, who came among us first as a tiny infant.

And what a joy it is to have you with us here today! We pray by grace you will find your soul refreshed and your spirit renewed as we hear God’s word, give thanks and receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

Blessings and peace,
Dr. Rob Alexander, Senior Warden

Dr. Rob AlexanderSenior Warden
David WestMusic Minister
Courtney RulfYouth Christian Formation
Erica PolkOffice Manager

We give thanks for our guest musicians who have blessed us this Christmas with their gifts of music. Thank you Jennifer Jenkins (flute), Frank Chaisson (Native American flute), and Tammy Chaisson (percussion). Thanks also to those who have led us in our singing.

Please Pray for those on the Parish Prayer List:

Andrèe, Jay, Norma, Sybil, Lydicia, Jere and Emilie, Shirley, Lona and Sidney, Earl, Bonnie, Jamie, AnnaBelle, Betty, Kim, Ursula, Randy, Earl, Gerard, Al, Matt & Miles, Stella and Legion Park School. We give thanks and pray for St. Matthew’s Episcopal School, Head of School, Thomas Souldelier, members of the Board, faculty, staff and students, our Parish Vestry and Search Committee. 

Worship Notes

To help make our worship experience together more meaningful we ask that you turn off pagers and cellular phones. Please, no texting or taking pictures during the service. Do participate! Your parts are printed in bold.

About our Christmas service: Through our prayers and music, we invite you travel with us on the journey to Bethlehem. Through our time together we will be offered a glimpse of the profound message that Jesus brings.

Our Créche awaits the arrival of the babe and during the singing of Away in a Manger, Mary, Joseph and the babe will be placed in the stable.

The Magi (wise ones) are not present. If you look closely you may see them in the window by the baptismal font as they are just beginning their journey and will not arrive until January 8th (although the 6th is the official Epiphany).
A crèche is a model or tableau representing the scene of Jesus Christ’s birth. The word creche is from the French word for manger. The French word comes from the Italian word Greccio. the town where the first manger scene was set up by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. As the story goes, St. Francis wanted people to remember that Jesus was born in a humble stable. He asked a farmer friend of his to help by bringing an ox, a donkey, a manger and some straw to a nearby cave. On Christmas Eve, St. Francis and the people of Greccio met in this cave and by candlelight, acted out the story of Jesus’ birth.

Note to Parents and all Participants: We assume that children might be present in the service. We expect noise. We expect fidgeting. We are prepared for a little confusion. Relax and enjoy the service. We have Christmas coloring booklets for children with activity pages and crayons to help them be more engaged in tonight’s service. If you did not receive one when you entered, please ask an usher.

All people (regardless of age) are invited to God’s Welcome Table to receive Holy Communion. Jesus did not say. “Do this and understand.” He said, “Do this and remember.” Just as we celebrate birthdays and Christmas before our children “understand” so should we include them in the celebration of thanksgiving that takes place in the Eucharist.

Music used with permission of License CCLI:2542584

A Journey to the Manger : 4:00 pm-4:30 pm
Today, through our hymns, we invite you to travel with us on the journey to Bethlehem as we sing some familiar hymns or sing new words to familiar tunes. These words by ancient and modern writers offer us a glimpse of the profound message that Jesus brings. We begin the journey with the angel’s surprise visit to Mary, then move on to include Joseph, Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin), the angels, the shepherds, the town of Bethlehem, and finally the birth of Jesus.

Mary, when the angel’s voice

Words: Carol Goodwin King © 1997; Music: Tempus adest floridum, 1582

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No wind at the window

Words: John L. Bell (b. 1949), Music Cradle Song, William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921)

Graphic of an Angel talking to Mary

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Once, in Royal David’s City

Words: Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander, (1818-1895); Music: Irby , Henry J. Gauntlett (1805-1876)

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O Little town of Bethlehem

Words: Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) alt.; Music: Forest Green, English melody; adapt. And harm. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

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It came upon a midnight clear                                  

Words:Edmund H. Sears(187-1876), alt. Music: Richard Storrs Willis (1819-1900)

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While shepherds watched their flocks by night

Words: Nahum Tate (1625-1715)

We Gather in the Name of God

We pause a few minutes before beginning the service, then you are invited to rise as you are able

O Come all ye faithful

Words:  John Francis Wade (1711-1786); tr. Frederick Oakley (1802-1880) and others

The Lighting of the Advent Wreath

Through the four Sundays of Advent, the candles on the Advent wreath signified  that through God there is always hope for a better life; that God’s desire is for us to live in peace; that we are  to spread joy in the world; that Love is the gift God gives to us, and Love is the gift we are to share with others. Today, as we light the Christmas Candle, we remember that the light of Christ, who came among us as a child named Jesus, is now present to illuminate the world.

Tonight, old dreams die, and new dreams come to life. The promise is fulfilled!

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace.

Our candles light up our story. Our singing welcomes the night. The Light of the World has come. 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace.

And this light sets our souls on fire, warming us from within, giving off rays of love, and filling our lives with the presence of Emmanuel—God with us.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to all people.

Blessed be the One Holy and living God. 

Glory to God for ever and ever. Amen. 

Glory be to God on high
St. James Christmas Mass

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The Collect for Christmas Eve

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

We Hear and Respond to the Word of God

Please be seated

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah 9:1-7

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them light has shined. 

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of  Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.

He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Psalm 96 (Bold print said by all, italics by men, regular by women)

Sing to the Lord a new song; *sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.

Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; *proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations *and his wonders among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *he is more to be feared than all gods.

As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *but it is the Lord who made the heavens.

Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! * Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; * ascribe to the Lord honor and power.

Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; *bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; * let the whole earth tremble before him.

Tell it out among the nations, the Lord is King! * he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder and all that is in it; * let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord when he comes, * when he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness * and the peoples with his truth.

A Reading from Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Let us greet the Gospel of Christ by singing Away in a Manger.

As we sing, Mary, Joseph and the babe will be placed in the stable

The Holy Gospel

The Holy Gospel of Our Savior Jesus Christ According to Luke
Glory to you, Lord Christ

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.

This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

The Gospel of  Christ

Praise to you, O Christ.

A Christmas Homily
The Rev. Gigi Conner

We Affirm Our Faith by saying a Christmas Creed from Latin America

I believe in Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Gospel, which began in Bethlehem.

I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a small village, of whose coming the shepherds witnessed, and for whom there was no room at the inn.

I believe in the one whose life changed the course of history, for whom the rulers of the earth had no regard, and who was misunderstood by the proud.

I believe in the one to whom the poor, the oppressed, the discouraged, the afflicted, the sick, the blind, the leprous gave welcome and accepted him as Sovereign and Savior.

I believe in the one, who with love changed the heart of the proud and with his life showed that it is more important to serve than to be served and that the greatest joy is giving your life for others.

I believe in peace, which is not the absence of war, but love and justice among all people and nations.

I believe in reconciliation forgiveness, and the transforming power of the gospel.

I believe that Christmas is strength and power and that this world can change if with humility and faith we kneel before the manger.

I believe that I must be the first one to do so.

We Pray for the Church and the World

Tender and Compassionate God, we offer our prayers to you on this special evening when Christ was born.   Grant us your peace.

Jesus Christ was born in a stall with only a manger for his bed.

We pray for all who have no homes, especially those whose homes were lost because of hurricanes or tornados.

Jesus was held close to his mother. His father was nearby. Angels announced his birth and shepherds came to see him.

We pray for children everywhere who need to be held, loved, and  celebrated.

Jesus depended on others to give him food and clothes.

We pray for all who need both. Help us to care for others when we can. May we let others care for us.

Jesus was born to bring healing to the world.

We pray for all who are sick or in need

Jesus lived among us to bring mercy and to teach forgiveness.

We pray for all who are in trouble and need a chance for a new life.

Jesus called people to be alert and awake to the moment.

Bless the firefighters, police officers, first responders, doctors, nurses, and all who keep watch this night that all might live in safety.

Jesus reminded people to be thankful.

Bless those who seem to be invisible, but who do so much to make all lives more comfortable.

We pray for all who have died, and for those who grieve and who for the first time are facing Christmas without a precious loved one at their side.

Give to the grieving that deep soul-peace that no human voice or hand can offer.

Jesus loved everyone.

We pray for all people everywhere and for the well-being of the world.

God in Christ, in this time of storms and pandemics, bring new life where we are worn and tired, new love where we have turned hard-hearted, forgiveness where we feel hurt and where we have wounded, and the joy and freedom of your Holy Spirit where we are prisoners of ourselves. Amen.

We Prepare the Table     The Bread and wine are placed on the table.

The Offertory
Love came down at Christmas

Words: Christina Rossetti (1830-1894); Collection of Irish Melodies, 1902

The Invitation

The table of bread and wine is now ready. It is the table of company with Jesus, and all who love him. It is the table of sharing with the poor of the world ,with whom Jesus identified himself.

So come to this table, you who have much faith and you who would like to have more; you who have been here often, and you who have not been for a long time; Come, it is Christ who invites us to meet him here.

We Celebrate the Eucharist 

The Great Thanksgiving:
Eucharistic Prayer 2: Enriching Our Worship

The Lord be with you. 
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.      
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

We praise you and we bless you, holy and gracious God, source of life abundant. From before time you made ready the creation. Your Spirit moved over the deep and brought all things into being: sun, moon, and stars; earth, winds, and waters; and every living thing.

You made us in your image, and taught us to walk in your ways. But we rebelled against you, and wandered far away; and yet, as a mother cares for her children, you would not forget us. Time and again you called us to live in the fullness of your love. And so this day we join with Saints and Angels in the chorus of praise that rings through eternity, lifting our voices to magnify you as we sing:

Glory and honor and praise to you, holy and living God. To deliver us from the power of sin and death and to reveal the riches of your grace, you looked with favor upon Mary, your willing servant, that she might conceive and bear a son, Jesus the holy child of God. Living among us, Jesus loved us. He broke bread with outcasts and sinners, healed the sick, and proclaimed good news to the poor. He yearned to draw all the world to himself yet we were heedless of his call to walk in love.Glory and honor and praise to you, holy and living God. To deliver us from the power of sin and death and to reveal the riches of your grace, you looked with favor upon Mary, your willing servant, that she might conceive and bear a son, Jesus the holy child of God. Living among us, Jesus loved us. He broke bread with outcasts and sinners, healed the sick, and proclaimed good news to the poor. He yearned to draw all the world to himself, yet we were heedless of his call to walk in love.

Then, the time came for him to complete upon the cross the sacrifice of his life,and to be glorified by you. On the night before he died for us, Jesus was at table with his friends. He took bread, gave thanks to you, broke it, and gave it to them, and said: “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

As supper was ending, Jesus took the cup of wine. Again, he gave thanks to you, gave it to them, and said: “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Now gathered at your table, O God of all creation, and remembering Christ, crucified and risen, who was and is and is to come, we offer to you our gifts of bread and wine, and ourselves, a living sacrifice. Pour out your Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Body and Blood of Christ.

Breathe your Spirit over the whole earth and make us your new creation, the Body of Christ given for the world you have made.

 In the fullness of time bring us, with all your saints, from every tribe and language and people and nation, to feast at the banquet prepared from the foundation of the world. Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to you be honor, glory, and praise, for ever and ever. AMEN. 

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

The Breaking of the Bread

He who was first held by Mary is held for us in this bread.
He whose body was laid in a manger, is cradled in this cup.

We Share the Gifts of God  

Communion Hymn
T’was in the moon of wintertime
SMEC Choir

After everyone has received Communion, we’ll sing silent night.

The Post-Communion Prayer

God, in whose heart is love and justice, you show us this Christmas how to love and what we should challenge or change in order that your will for the earth might be done.

Increase our hope, dispel our apathy, inspire our imagination, and deepen our commitment until we become the signs of your kingdom for which we and others pray. Amen.                                                                              

The Blessing

This Christmas may you be blessed with joy, joy that comes from knowing you are loved and cherished;  blessed with hope, the hope for the well-being of the world that you can share with whoever needs it the most; blessed with peace, that deep, abiding peace that comes from knowing Christ lives within us; and may you speak love, instill hope and live in peace, for these are the gifts Christ brings to us.

Joy to the World!

Words: Isaac Watts((1674-1748) Music:George Frideric Handel (1685-1759); adapt. And arr. Lowell Mason (1792-1872)

We Exchange the Peace and greet each other in the name of Christ

Peace to the nations, east and west, peace to our neighbors, here and abroad, peace to all People, the peace of Christ above all peace.


Merry Christmas and may the Peace of the Lord be with you.

And also with you

Music Notes:

T’was in the Moon of Wintertime (The Huron Carol)

 is a Canadian Christmas hymn (Canada’s oldest Christmas song), written probably in 1642 by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Canada. Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people; the song’s original Huron title is “Jesous Ahatonhia” (“Jesus, he is born”). The song’s melody is based on a traditional French folk song, “Une Jeune Pucelle” . The well-known English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton. The English version of the hymn uses imagery familiar in the early 20th century, in place of the traditional Nativity story. This version is derived from Brébeuf’s original song and Huron religious concepts. In the English version, Jesus is born in a “lodge of broken bark” and wrapped in a “robe of rabbit skin”. He is surrounded by hunters instead of shepherds, and the Magi are portrayed as “chiefs from afar” who bring him “fox and beaver pelts” instead of the more familiar gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Silent Night: *Words: Joseph Mohr (1792-1848). “Stille Nacht” was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. Catholic priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had written the poem “ Stille Nach” in 1816, following the aftermath of the Napoleonic War. The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf, now part of Lamprechtshausen. On Christmas Eve 1818, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for that night’s mass, after river flooding had possibly damaged the church organ. The church was eventually destroyed by repeated flooding and replaced with the Silent-Night-Chapel.

Of Note* John Freeman Young (1820-1885) translator of stanzas 1,3, became the second bishop of Florida in 1867.


On behalf of the Vestry and Search Committee, I am delighted to announce that Father Jim Morrison has accepted the call to serve St. Matthew’s as our next Rector.

Currently Father Jim is serving as Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans, a Parish he has led since 2014.

Father Jim is from Houma, and St. Matthew’s holds a special place in his heart as he attended kindergarten at our school and grew up in our community.

Father Jim begins his New Year and New Ministry with St. Matthew’s on February 12, 2023.  We look forward to greeting him with a warm welcome into our St. Matthew’s family.

The Vestry and Search Committee extend sincere thanks to everyone who participated in this discernment process. We look forward to the journey ahead with Father Jim as our Rector.                                                   

Dr Rob Alexander, Senior Warden

by Howard Thurman 
When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to bring peace among brothers (and sisters) to make music in the heart.  

Pew Assist
Jay C. “Jazzy J” Theriot

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